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Puncta Extraordinaria

Does God Have Halakhic Authority?

In the famous story of the Oven of Akhnai, Rabbi Eliezer makes recourse to divine revelation to defend his legal ruling. Rabbi Joshua responds that “the Torah is not in heaven” and God has no say. Elsewhere in the Talmud, however, heavenly voices are considered authoritative, a view which aligns with that of the Qumran sect, which believed God continues to reveal secret details of Torah laws.

Prof.

Andrew D. Gross

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Dots on Deuteronomy 29:28: A Polemical Response to Qumran’s Secret Laws

“The secret things belong unto YHWH our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever”—the verse has eleven dotted letters indicating erasure marks, but why? The answer lies in a controversial interpretation found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Prof.

Albert I. Baumgarten

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“Esau Hates Jacob” - But Is Antisemitism a Halakha?

Esau's plan to kill Jacob and his “dotted” kiss upon their reunion has been cited by rabbinic authorities, such as Rav Moshe Feinstein, as evidence that antisemitism is inherent. This idea is not found in the Torah or the Talmud.

Prof. Rabbi

Marty Lockshin

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Lot and His Daughters’ Motives for Their Incestuous Union

Genesis Rabbah surprisingly portrays Lot’s daughters and their choices in a decidedly positive light, while exacerbating Lot’s culpability.

Dr.

Shayna Sheinfeld

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Scribal Marks

Prof.

Emanuel Tov

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Why Is Esau’s Kiss Dotted?

Esau’s kiss to Jacob is written with scribal dots over the word וַׄיִּׄשָּׁׄקֵ֑ׄהׄוּׄ, “and he kissed him.” Traditional commentators suggest this hints to Esau’s feelings or state of mind. Critical scholarship, however, points to something much more prosaic, a question of syntax.

Prof.

Albert I. Baumgarten

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Key Characteristics of (Proto-) MT

Prof.

Emanuel Tov

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